Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lucas, Spielberg forecast film industry implosion, in part due to technology

If you think that tech has been a boon to the film industry, you'd be both right -- and wrong. While the tech industry has provided things such as 3D, better film techniques and special effects, and far, far more, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg -- two industry icons who have provided some of the biggest blockbusters in history -- provided very bearish views on the movie industry on Thursday, and it's all the fault of technology.

The pair spoke during a panel discussion at the University of Southern California's School for Cinematic Arts, where they are both board members. Some of what they said has already been posited. With huge in-home screens -- and a poorer and poorer experience at theaters, based on rudeness, prices, and more -- why would anyone want to go to a movie theater?

Both Spielberg and Lucas agree -- they expect the public to consume more content on big-screen -- and even 3D -- screens at home. That will include both TV and film, and theatrical releases might be, then, limited to fewer big-budget films.

Today's big budget blockbusters fuel the ability of studios to produce smaller, artsy films. What then, if these so-called "tentpole" movies begin failing? A prime example of such disappointments were last year's "John Carter" and the recent Will Smith sci-fi big budget film "After Earth" (estimated $70 million budget, $98 million worldwide receipts thus far) was trumped by the magician heist movie, "Now You See Me" (estimated $75 million budget, $78 million worldwide receipts) in their opening weekend.

Spielberg said:
There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm again.
This year, "tentpole" films are being released in huge numbers.

On Friday, "Man of Steel" flies into theaters. Others that are well-known and coming soon are "Pacific Rim" and "World War Z." The year will near its close with "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."

To combat the influx of home theater, Lucas predicted that movies will have to go more upscale. As opposed to being something the average family can go to every weekend,
You're going to end up with fewer theaters, bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost 50 bucks or 100 or 150 bucks -- like what Broadway costs today, or a football game.
When Lucas speaks of $50, he doesn't mean for a family. He means per person.

Spielberg added,
There is going to be a day when the experience is going to be the price of admission. What I fear about that day coming is that the experience will trump the story or the ability to compel people through a narrative. And it's going to be more of a ride, a theme park, than it is going to be a story, and that's what I hope doesn't happen.
It's already true that films such as "Iron Man 3," "Man of Steel," and "The Avengers" are already thrill rides, where story is less important than special effects.

If Lucas and Spielberg are right -- and there are those that feel that they already are -- you won't see films like the Academy Award-nominated movie "Lincoln" in theaters, but on TV -- Spielberg, in fact, said that "Lincoln" almost ended up on HBO.

Instead, the pair fears, you'll see these films at home. In addition, they said, you might not even see them on traditional cable or satellite, but on Internet TV.

A portion of their discussion can be seen in the embedded video.

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